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Quick and Easy Guide to Labor & Employment Law: New Jersey

This state-specific guide covers labor and employment case law, statutes, rules, and regulations that HR professionals and clients often encounter or have questions about in New Jersey.

At-Will Employment

New Jersey is an employment at-will state. This means that either party may terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause, and with or without notice. The only exception to the employment at-will policy is a contract stating otherwise. Witkowski v. Thomas J. Lipton, Inc., 643 A.2d 546 (N.J. 1994).

Right-to-Work Laws

Employees have the right to organize and bargain collectively. N.J. Const. art. I, § 19. Employers cannot require employees and applicants to refrain from becoming or remaining union members. N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 34:12-2, et al. New Jersey courts have upheld union agreements that require union membership. F.F. East Co. v. United Oystermen's Union 19600 et al., 21 A.2d 799 (N.J. Ct. Err. & App. 1941).

Immigration Verification

New Jersey places no additional employment verification procedures on employers beyond Federal I-9 compliance. There is no requirement to use E-Verify under New Jersey state laws, though employers may use E-Verify voluntarily.

Drug Testing

New Jersey allows pre-employment drug testing. If an employer has a drug testing policy and employees or applicants test positive for marijuana, the employer must offer them an opportunity to provide a legitimate medical explanation for the positive test result and give them written notice of their right to provide the explanation. N.J. Stat. § 24:6I-6.1.

Court and Jury Duty Leave

Employers must allow employees to attend court for required jury service. Furthermore, employers cannot penalize, threaten or coerce employees because they are required to attend court for jury service. N.J. Stat. § 2B:20-17. The statute is silent on pay for court and jury duty leave.

Voting Leave

New Jersey does not have any statutes or other law requiring employers to provide voting leave.

Parental Leave

Pregnancy Disability Leave

New Jersey employers cannot provide paid or unpaid leave to female employees affected by pregnancy or breastfeeding in ways that are less favorable than leave provided to other employees who have a similar ability or inability to work. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:5-12. Pregnancy or breastfeeding means pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or expressing milk for breastfeeding, and medical conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, recovery from childbirth, or breastfeeding. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:5-5.

Insurance

Under New Jersey's Family Temporary Disability insurance program, eligible employees may receive family leave insurance benefits when they take leave for their family member's serious health condition, the birth of their child, the placement of a child with them for adoption or foster care, or activities for which unpaid crime victim leave can be taken. N.J. Stat. § 43:21-25 et seq.

Other Leave

Earned Paid Leave

The State of New Jersey requires employers to provide earned sick leave to each employee working for the employer in the State. For every 30 hours worked, the employee shall accrue one hour of earned sick leave. N.J. Stat. § 34:11D-2. New Jersey employers must allow eligible employees to use up to 40 hours of earned sick leave in a benefit year for their own or their family members' mental or physical illnesses, injuries, other adverse health conditions or preventive medical care; certain public health emergencies or dangers, school-related events or child-care meetings; and certain reasons related to their status or their family members' status as victims of domestic or sexual violence. N.J. Stat. § 34:11D-3.

Crime Victim Leave

New Jersey employers must provide eligible employees with up to 20 days of crime victim leave during the 12-month period following an incident where they or their family members are victims of domestic violence or a sexually violent offense. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 34:11C-2; N.J. Stat. Ann. § 34:11C-3.

Emergency Response Leave

Employers must allow employees to take leave to serve as volunteer emergency responders during a state of emergency declared by the U.S. president or New Jersey's governor or to respond to an emergency alarm. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40A:14-214.

Family and Medical Leave

Eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of family leave in any 24-month period for the birth of their child, the placement of a child with them for adoption or foster care, or their family member's serious health condition. N.J. Stat. 34 § :11B-4.

Military Leave

Eligible employees in New Jersey may take leave to perform military service, including up to three months to participate in assemblies or annual training conducted by the U.S. armed forces and up to three months in a four-year period to attend service schools conducted by the U.S. armed forces. However, they must meet certain requirements to qualify for reinstatement. N.J. Stat. § 38:23C-2.

Smoking Laws

In general, smoking is prohibited in workplaces and indoor public places in New Jersey. N.J. Stat. § 26:3D-58. There are limited exceptions outlined by statute. N.J. Stat. § 26:3D-59; N.J. Stat. § 26:3D-60. Employers cannot discriminate against employees and applicants because they do or don't smoke or use other tobacco products, unless this discrimination has a rational basis that reasonably relates to their employment and job duties. N.J. Stat. § 34:6B-1.

Break Time to Express Milk

Breastfeeding is a protected class in New Jersey, and an individual cannot be discriminated against because they are breastfeeding. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:5-12. A reasonable accommodation for an employee's pregnancy-related needs may include reasonable break time each day for an employee who is breastfeeding an infant child and a private room or other location close to the employee's work area where they may express breast milk.

Meal Breaks

The State of New Jersey has no law regulating meal breaks or rest periods.

Minimum Wage, Overtime and Wage Recordkeeping

Beginning, January 1, 2021, the State of New Jersey set minimum wage at not less than $12 per hour for most employers; $11.10 per hour for seasonal employers who work from May 1 to September 30 and small employers with fewer than six employees; and $10.30 per hour for agricultural employers. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 34:11-56a4. Employers must still comply with federal wage laws and regulations. The employer can pay tipped employees $4.13 per hour as long as the employee's tips bring the total hourly wage up to the state minimum wage.

New Jersey generally follows federal requirements for overtime pay, i.e., if an employee works more than  40 hours, he or she must be compensated at a rate of one and one-half times the regular rate of pay at which he or she is employed.

Final Payments

The State of New Jersey requires an employer to issue a final paycheck on the next regular payday. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 34:11-4.3. For employees that are compensated in part or in full by an incentive system, employers must pay a reasonable approximation of all wages owed until the exact amounts due can be computed. Id.

Employers must pay for accrued unused vacation upon termination if unused vacation has been promised to employees or there is a contractual obligation for employers to pay such wages to employees. Smith v. Tyco Intern. (US), Inc., 2007 WL 1039067, at *1 (N.J. Sup. Ct. Apr. 9, 2007).

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance benefits provide income to individuals who have lost work through no fault of their own. The benefits are intended to partially offset the loss of wages while an unemployed worker searches for suitable work or until an employer can recall the employee to work. Nothing is deducted from the employee's wages to pay for this coverage. Unemployment benefits are administered by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Unemployment Insurance. Additional information regarding the benefits may be accessed at www.myunemployment.nj.gov/.

Workers' Compensation

The New Jersey Workers' Compensation Act, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 34:15-1, et seq., applies to all private and public employers in New Jersey, except employers in the railroad and certain maritime industries. Employees who suffer injuries and/or occupational diseases arising out of and in the course of their employment may be eligible to receive several types of benefits under the Act. Under the Act, a workplace injury must be immediately reported to the employer; failing to timely report an injury may result in a denial of benefits.

The Act is administered by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and additional information regarding the Act may be accessed at www.nj.gov/labor/wc/wc_index.html. Finally, New Jersey recognizes a private cause of action for retaliation under the Act. Lally v. Copygraphics, 428 A.2d 1317 (N.J. 1981). If an employer discriminates against an employee because he or she has asserted his or her rights under the Act, the employer may have to pay a fine. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 34:15-39.1

Child Labor

Generally, 14 is the minimum age for employment under New Jersey state law and at age 16, a child may be employed for most work during restricted hours, unless the work is declared hazardous by the U.S. Department of Labor. There are restrictions for places of work dealing with minors, as well as restrictions on the hours of the day the minor may work, and they vary depending on the age of the minor. The laws may be found at www.nj.gov/labor/wageandhour/tools-resources/youth-employment/index.shtml.

Gun Laws

The State of New Jersey does not have separate laws governing firearms in the workplace. However, New Jersey's right-to-carry laws are so restrictive that it is unlawful for almost all employees to possess concealed firearms in the workplace. See N.J. Stat. § 2C:39-5, N.J. Stat. § 2C:39-6.

Medical Marijuana

The State of New Jersey has a Medical Marijuana Program, and additional information may be found at njmmp.nj.gov/njmmp/.

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Guide last updated July 2021.

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